Clay Davis beats the rap by pretending he gave to his poor constituents; Templeton gets free rein at the paper; and McNulty becomes the go-to guy for other investigations

”The Wire” recap: Clay Davis testifies`

Templeton’s doughnut went to waste last night on The Wire. McNulty, pretending to be the serial killer, put on a crazy man’s thick Bah-more accent — ”It’s in my heritage,” cracked the Irish actor — and threatened to come down to the paper and put a few bite marks on the freaked reporter’s body. Scott looked like he messed his shorts while snapping at his colleagues that the killer had come a-calling. He managed to squeeze out one blurp of a question before McNulty and Lester hung up. When McNulty showed up to reassure the paper that they were following protocol, Temp sniffed about feeling used by the killer. ”I dunno,” smirked McNulty, ”it’s kind of working out for the both of you, right?” Gus knows he’s got a rat on his crew, and he tried to persuade the editors to comb some of the bloated prose out of Templeton’s story. ”He’s acting like he’s taking his life in his hands,” Gus said. ”This is our f—ing city. This ain’t Beirut.”

McNulty may be losing his last traces of professionalism, and that spelunking flashlight only added to the crazy, but actor Dominic West is on the rise. This episode marked his directorial debut, and kudos are in order. There was some very effective crosscutting going on, between the equally rallied newspaper and police staffs. They finally had resources at their disposal to do their proper jobs, and the adrenaline that comes from feeling both needed and appreciated. Better yet, they had trusty captains at the helm, in Gus and Daniels. Problem is, and this is the heartbreak, it’s all for naught. Everybody’s being played. McNulty, however well intentioned, set this whole Ferris wheel in motion, and then Templeton jumped on for a free ride. So now the self-interested mayor, desperate not to have his gubernatorial ambitions blown, has given the cops carte blanche to catch a drummed-up killer, which will make front-page news on a paper with a fabulist at the center of the case.

It’s up to Bunk, a lone wolf, harrumphing upon news that McNulty was going to work with Quantico to get a psychological assessment of the killer, barking at his superior to shove his stripes up his ass and let him stick to his unsolved case. He interrogated Michael (”gift wrapped!”) about his stepfather’s murder, allowing that the boy had been a victim of terrible abuse. He’s hot on a scent, and it seems he’ll keep following it to Chris’ evil door. Meanwhile, Bunk’s practically frothing in disgust at McNulty’s spiraling descent. ”Ain’t you the king of diamonds,” he spat after a line of detectives came sniffing for some overtime resources. McNulty, who looked both horrified and puffed up by his sudden advantage — ”I give and give and give,” he said to Lester — sounded not unlike Clay Davis on the witness stand. The senator, who should have gone down in flames, turned it on thick for the jurors, wailing like a used-car salesman running for president that all that cash had gone to buy his constituents food and puffy jackets. Just like ”Promathus,” he was a victim of his own kindness and good heart. He gave and gave and gave. When news of his acquittal reached the paper, an old staffer told Gus that the verdict made him feel awfully white and that one day Gus was going to have to explain to him how a jury of his peers let Davis walk. Gus, smirking, told his buddy to start his education with James Brown and take it from there.

NEXT: The lullaby of Baltimore

Finally, a few words about my favorite subplot of the evening. I’m not sure what it was about McNulty sending Kima to Ikea to get some furniture for her kid’s first overnight visit, and then the hilarious scenes of her in her lamp-lit apartment, with good tunes on in the background, sweating and swearing over a few unforgiving pieces of wood, that touched me so much. Maybe it was because we’ve recently done a fair amount of wrestling over some assembly-required bits at our home, or maybe it’s simply because it’s these folks’ regular lives that I’ve always found so compelling. Not to get all Gus on you, but it’s not the high dramatics I’ll miss most when the season ends. It’s the subtlety of corner language and the cubicle cop talk and the couple beers at the end of a long shift. Seeing Kima at home cursing out a few pieces of blond-wood furniture, and McNulty recommending that she up her Scotch intake, was every bit as rich as Clay Davis’ grand hamminess in front of the jury and Omar’s limping away from the scene of the crime.

When Kima’s boy couldn’t sleep, the woman, looking as rumpled and bleary as any midnight mama should, scooped him up and brought him to the window to lullaby Baltimore to bed. Okay, okay, maybe director West could have dialed down the Sesame Street setup, one gorgeously lit window against an otherwise darkened brick building, just as he could have taken a hint of righteousness out of Gus’ self-serious J-school speech to his young reporter about getting out there on the streets with the people. But Kima’s honey-tongued ”Good night, popos, good night, fiends, good night, hoppers, good night, hustlers” was about as good as it gets. So with that, good morning, Wireheads, good morning, Chi-cago and Christine, good morning to everybody, even you spoiler fiends. May we all daydream today about Dukie’s robot octopus dance or Richard Belzer, a homicide vet, trying to sweet-talk his way out of paying his tab.

Oh, and for a favorite line of the night, well, it’d have to go to that little bastard Kenard. Omar held a gun to a shivering Michael’s head, warning him that Marlo better come down and meet him on the streets like a man, and then limped off into the shadows. ”Gimpy as a motherf—er,” said Kenard. I don’t trust the kid, but he does make me laugh.

What about you all? How do you rate Dominic West as a director? What was your line of the night? If you’d been on the jury, would you have let Clay Davis off? And will Marlo ever agree to a dance?

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